Claire: Scully, Dodgers mark 60 grand years
Team honors broadcaster with pregame video tribute
If you know Vin Scully, and I feel honored and grateful to say that I do, you know the last place he seeks and wants to be is in the spotlight.
That's not who he is. The spotlight is not where he wants to be.
Where Vin always has wanted to be is sitting above home plate in a Major League baseball stadium announcing a Dodger game.
His pleasure comes from preparing for a game and delivering a broadcast to the best of his ability. His ability has earned him well-deserved Hall of Fame recognition.
Scully was at his customary location on Sunday, delivering the broadcast of a game between the Giants and Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.
It was business as usual, Scully delivering the description of a game as only he can, his words flowing as if scripted by a poet.
It wasn't just an ordinary game, however, as much as Scully wanted to frame it as business as usual.
The game marked the 60th anniversary of Scully's first broadcast with the Dodgers. That game had been played on April 18th, 1950, the Dodgers playing the Philadelphia Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium.
Prior to Sunday's game, one of the members of the Dodgers' public relations staff went to Scully to get his approval for a video tribute to be shown on the Dodgers' Diamond Vision board to commemorate Vin's first game.
Always the ultimate team player, Scully said go ahead if that's what the team wanted to do.
When the video tribute was played, the Dodger Stadium crowd gave Scully a thunderous standing ovation.
Scully, 82, acknowledged the applause with a wave, wanting to get back to the game at hand.
It has always been the magic of the game that Scully has loved since childhood that has driven him to be the very best that he could be at his profession.
Scully had no way of knowing that Sunday's game was to mark an anniversary for him and it was only through an Associated Press report that the date and its meaning surfaced.
As usual, Scully tried to deflect attention but when it was reported that he broke in as a Dodger announcer alongside the legendary Red Barber and Connie Desmond, Vin thought back to his early days with the Dodgers.
"You feel blessed that you've lived that long, that you've been allowed to do what you love to do for that long, and that my health has held up all those years.
"It's humbling to think that you've been that fortunate and God has blessed you with that time. That first team (referring to 1950), the so-called 'Boys of Summer,' that was my graduating class. I mean, look at the team then. I had Don Newcombe, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Billy Cox, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, Carl Erskine. That was such an amazing collection of players, so I guess that was the team that made the most impression on me," Scully told the Associated Press.
When I saw Scully's quote related to his anniversary with the Dodgers and the 1950 team, I couldn't help but think about the impression that the great announcer had made on the players themselves.
I reached out to two old friends, Newcombe and Erskine, for their thoughts of that young Scully of 60 years ago.
It was no surprise to me, having had the opportunity to get to know Scully, that the former Dodger players didn't think about Vin so much in terms of an announcer but as a dear friend.
"He's been such a classy guy ever since I've known him and ever since he came to the Dodgers as a young man," said Newcombe, who was the starting pitcher in the first game Scully announced during the regular season.
"We used to fly into LaGuardia and I would take him to New Jersey to see his mom. We've always been friends and I can say this without a doubt: I've never heard Vin make fun of or chastise or say anything negative about a ballplayer on the Dodgers or a visiting team. This is a true gentleman and he deserves everything he's gotten from the Dodgers and out of life, with his beautiful wife and all of the awards. He's a true friend."
While Newcombe mentioned friendship and family, Erskine recalled the literate and well-read Scully and how he quickly gained the respect of the members of the Dodger team.
"If Vin hadn't been a broadcaster he would have found success as a teacher or a writer," said Erskine. "He always has been kind of a romantic who sees things in a very poetic way.
"When Vin started with the Dodgers he was young, about the age of many of us. He fit in real well and he became one of us and there was a mutual respect. Even so, he always was professional in the way he went about this job."
As Erskine thought about his early friendship with Scully, he recalled a time when the two were together at Grand Central Terminal and the Dodger pitcher was looking for a book to read on a train trip.
"We were at this bookstore and I turned to Vin because I knew he read a lot of books and I asked him for a recommendation. He pointed out a book titled 'Sea Fights and Shipwrecks: True Tales of the Seven Seas.'
"You know, that book is in my library today. It's a little frayed with the use but I looked recently and saw a notation I had made more than 50 years ago. It reads 'Recommended by Vin Scully.'
"You don't easily forget something that Vin says or recommends," said Erskine.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. He is the author of "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue." This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.